Motorola Droid Razr Smartphone

PHOTO: Motorola Droid RazrPlayCourtesy Motorola Mobility
WATCH TechBytes (10.19.11)

The new Motorola Droid Razr falls flat -- and that's a compliment. There are a lot of sleek, compact smartphones on the market, and many of them are very, very thin, but few are as thin as the Razr.

Put it down and you'll see. It's a little smaller than an old-fashioned postcard, and not much thicker (0.28 inches). You may worry about putting it in a pocket lest it snap in two, though Motorola gives assurances the back is made with Kevlar and the screen with Corning's tough Gorilla Glass (the chassis is aluminum). Cleverly, one end of the phone has a small hump in back, because otherwise you'd have trouble getting your fingers around it to pick it up.

That said, it's really not a very small phone (5.15 by 2.71 inches), but that's a tradeoff you make in order to get a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen. The phone is packed -- a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 4G LTE speed on Verizon's network, an 8MP camera, and Google's Android Gingerbread software.

It comes loaded with Android apps -- Gmail, Google Talk, Google's Search with voice recognition, Google Maps with Navigation, Google Books, and so forth -- plus Amazon's Kindle app, Blockbuster, Madden NFL 12, Netflix and Slacker Radio. You can of course go to the Android Marketplace for more.

The touch screen is bright and big -- you'll be comfortable watching YouTube videos or playing games at length, probably more so than on other handhelds. Pressing icons on the screen is reliable, though typing with your thumbs, especially in portrait mode, can be frustrating. (I don't have very large fingers, but whenever I typed "e," for instance, I hit the "w" right next to it. I've had an easier time on some competitors' phones.)

Analysts have pointed out that not all phones are created equal when it comes to connecting to a network, and Motorola, over the years, has earned a reputation for being very good at grabbing a signal. They seem not to have lost their touch.

A few things that may annoy you: there's no hatch for the battery if you want to replace it; you have to leave that to the professionals. Motorola claims a charge will give you 10 hours' talk time or two weeks in standby mode, but we all know that batteries go downhill over time.

In its day, the original Motorola Razr was the cellphone to have -- a shiny, thin flip phone. From 2003 to 2007 it was by far the best-selling cellphone in the U.S, and Motorola is clearly trying to recapture its magic with the new phone. Amazon advertises it for $199 with a two-year Verizon contract; Verizon Wireless itself has asking prices of $249 to $299 in different parts of the country.

Will it succeed? It's certainly a powerful phone, well-designed and made. But there's a lot of competition out there.

"It's a solid Android device, but it's not going to be that blockbuster that the original Razr was," said Roger Entner of Recon Analytics.

"The huge difference the original had was its thinness," he said. "It's just that everyone else has it now too."

If you're a gamer, watch a lot of videos, or have other reasons to want a large touch screen, the Droid Razr may be very high on your list. If you're not in the thrall of Apple with its market-leading iPhone 4S, then give the Razr a close look. It's sharp and almost literally razor-thin.

But if you put it in your back pocket, please make sure to sit down slowly.

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